Reese McFarlane, 33, is a horticulturalist and lives in Bristol with her
daughter Devon, five. Best friend Niki Cotsen, 42, is a full-time mum and
lives in Harrow, Middlesex, with her husband Jason, 39, and 21-month-old
twins, Herbie and Bo. They’ve been friends for 15 years.
“Niki may be nine years older than me, but you’d never think it! We first met
in 1996 while we were both backpacking around Australia.
We spent two weeks together and vowed to stay in touch back in the UK. Once
home we didn’t see each other as much as we’d like, maybe once or twice a
year. Niki was in Harrow and I was in Bristol, but we kept in touch by
In February 2005, I gave birth to my daughter Devon. Soon afterwards, Niki
came to visit and I remember thinking then that she’d make an amazing mum.
It wasn’t long before we lost touch – I guess life just got in the way. By now
I was a single mum and juggling looking after Devon with my job.
I’d often think of Niki, but never got round to calling her… until May 2008
when I saw her in a national newspaper. She was appealing for an egg donor
to help her become a mum.
I speed-read the article in which she said she was infertile and egg donation
was the only way she’d ever achieve her dream of motherhood. Seconds later I
punched in her telephone number, hoping it was still the same.
‘Niki, it’s me, Reese – I’ll help you be a mum,’ I said, the words spilling
out of my mouth. She burst into tears and over the phone we caught up on the
past few years. My heart broke hearing her agony. She told me she and her
husband Jason had been trying to have a baby through IVF for a year, but it
We agreed to meet up and start the process for me to become Niki’s egg donor.
We decided to talk it through with fertility counsellors, to make sure we
were both prepared to go through with it.
I researched the process of egg donation and knew it carried risks – even so
far as leaving me infertile – but I refused to look on the negative side.
If I could help Niki become a mum, I would do whatever it took.
In the summer of 2008, I started hormone injections to boost my egg production
and, two weeks later, I had 16 eggs removed. The same day, my eggs were
fertilised using Jason’s sperm and five days later implanted in Niki’s womb.
Then we just had to wait…
The procedure left me bloated and sore – but I just hoped it would work.
Two weeks later, Niki called. She was pregnant with twins! I just burst into
tears, it was the best news ever.
Her son, Herbie, and daughter, Bo, were born in April 2009, weighing 3lb 14oz
and 4lb 2oz.
They were just 12 weeks old when I went to visit. Perfect in every way, I
loved them instantly, but not as their mum, more like an auntie.
Seeing Niki that day, looking so incredibly happy and serene, I’ve never known
anyone who was more destined for motherhood. I’m so glad I could help her –
it’s brought us closer together.”
“Reese is so beautiful – not just on the outside, she’s absolutely gorgeous on
the inside too. Even though we only saw each other a couple of times a year,
it was always as if we had only caught up yesterday.
Reese was there when I married my husband Jason in December 2004 – I wanted
her to be part of my special day.
I wanted to have a baby as soon as possible, but month after month we were
left disappointed. During this time I lost touch with Reese. I’d feel bad
for not phoning, but didn’t want to dump all my problems on her.
After a year of trying – and failing – we decided it was time to ask our
doctor for IVF. At 37 I didn’t have time to wait.
Over four years we tried all sorts of treatments – the fertility drug Clomid,
artificial insemination, IVF – but nothing worked. We’d spoken about
adoption, but I wanted to carry my babies and feel them grow inside me.
Then I remembered reading about a woman who had put an advert on the side of a bus asking for egg donors. Extreme? Perhaps, but I understood her
So, I called our local paper and asked them to print an article with my plea
for donors. A week later it was published and within 24 hours a national
newspaper ran it too. And it worked – people started contacting me. I was
overwhelmed by their kindness and willingness to help a stranger.
When I got the phone call from Reese offering to help me become a mum, I was
afraid it might affect our friendship. But she was adamant, so we talked
everything through at length and it made sense. It meant we’d have a
wonderful connection forever.
Just two months later she came to stay with us, so she could start her hormone
injections and then have her eggs removed at my local clinic.
Each day, I injected her with the hormones she needed to boost her ovulation.
I didn’t dare hope the treatment would work – but it did!
Reese’s generosity of spirit means I now have two gorgeous babies. I’ll never
be able to thank her enough for what she’s done for us. Even though I see
them as being 100 per cent my kids, they still have some of her mannerisms.
I don’t mind one bit if they inherit traits fromher as she’s such a
I would urge anybody to consider donating their eggs. It’s brought so much joy
to my life.”
‘Cancer brought us together’
Charlotte Linehan, 32, is a full-time mum and lives in Lewes, East Sussex,
with her husband Peter, a 32-year-old civil engineer and their two children
George, six, and Amelia, three. Best friend Claire Summers, 37, is a
financial advisor. She’s single and lives in Croydon. They’ve been friends
for almost three years.
“There are some people in life you are destined to meet – for me Claire is one
We met at my first session of chemotherapy in April 2008. I’d just been
diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 30 years old with two young children.
And I was terrified.
I was outside The Royal Marsden hospital in London, when I saw Claire. She was
wearing a funky bandana to mask the fact she was losing her hair. She’d
already started her chemo.
When we ended up on the same ward we began chatting about everything: cancer,
TV, my kids. We bonded while having treatment that we hoped would save our
Cancer is a very lonely illness. You can be surrounded by people who love and
care for you, but no one really understands how you feel. My husband, Peter,
was amazing, but I felt he needed me to be positive and happy and sometimes
I just didn’t feel that way.
I remember talking to some mums who were stressed about what primary school to
send their children to, while inside I was terrified I might not live to see
my children, George and Amelia, even go to school. Their worries seemed so
inconsequential and Claire understood that. She knew my fears, frustrations
Just months after my mastectomy I did the 10-mile Pink Ribbonwalk for Breast
Cancer Care. Claire was the one who encouraged me when I worried if I’d be
strong enough to do it.
She was my rock on the days when I needed to admit I felt sick and low
(instead of pretending I was always ‘fine’) to days I wanted to joke about
my bald head. She was someone to share my fears about dying with.
When I decided to have my other healthy breast removed too, just in case, it
was Claire I spoke to – only she knew how it felt to make that choice.
Cancer brought us together, but I know if we’d met in any other situation we’d
have become friends anyway. I love her enthusiasm for life. We go out every
few months and keep in touch with regular phone calls and emails.
Now, I’m in remission, and feel I have finally left my cancer, and that
part of my life behind, with one exception – Claire. We’re friends for life.”
“When I first met Charlotte, I was a bit further on with my chemotherapy than
she was, which meant I finished before her.
I was elated on the day I left the hospital knowing that horrible part of my
treatment was behind me.
On the ward, as powerful drugs were being pumped into Charlotte, I knew I
couldn’t leave so I went back to sit with her. Even though it was the last
place I wanted to be, I knew she would have done the same for me.
During our hospital appointments we shared everything with one another: how
hard it is seeing your friends and family devastated by what’s happening to
you, our mood swings triggered by the drugs, and frustrations when all
people wanted to talk about was our cancer – as if it defined who we were.
It was liberating to have someone who I could be completely honest with.
I’d been diagnosed in January 2008 and after a lumpectomy, chemo and
radiotherapy I’m lucky that I’ve since been given the all-clear.
These days, Charlotte and I are just like any other good friends – we don’t
need to talk about cancer, but it’s always there, a part of our shared past.
Having cancer was an incredibly negative experience for me, but out of that
came one of the most positive parts of my life – my friendship with
- To support Breast Cancer Care visit Pinkribbonwalk.org.uk.
‘She found me a husband’
Fran Monaghan, 31, is a charity PR consultant. She lives in Walthamstow,
north-east London with her husband Neil, 30, who works for a youth charity.
Emma Weir, 31, works in PR and lives in Brighton with her husband Kieran,
32, a digital producer. They’ve been friends for 13 years.
“When I was planning my wedding in 2007, there was only one person I wanted as
my bridesmaid: Emma. Not just because she’s my best friend, but because
without her I would never have met my husband.
She discovered him in a taxi queue in Ibiza and decided he was The One – for
When she returned from her summer holiday with her then boyfriend (now hubby)
Kieran in 2001, I couldn’t wait to hear all about it. But she kept talking
about a guy called Neil, from London, she’d met who’d be perfect for me. I
was surprised because she’d never tried to set me up with anyone before.
Intrigued and newly single after an 18-month relationship, I couldn’t help but
like the sound of this mystery man.
For starters, he was 6ft 4in and at 6ft 2in myself, I’ve always struggled to
meet men equal to me in the height stakes!
Emma, Kieran and I met up with Neil a few weeks later at Victoria station in
London before going out clubbing together.
My first impression as he strode across the station towards us? He was
gorgeous! ‘Well done Emma,’ I thought to myself.
We danced and flirted the night away at Pacha nightclub and at the end of the
evening Neil tried to kiss me – but I pulled away.
I was worried that if we got involved with one another, and it didn’t work
out, it would affect his new friendship with Emma and Kieran.
But the next day I could have kicked myself. He was tall, handsome, funny and
kind – I really liked this guy, what was I doing? So, unusually for me
because I’m naturally quite shy, I got in touch with Neil and asked him if
he wanted to go out for a drink.
And the rest, as they say, is history. One date turned into a relationship.
And then in the summer of 2007, Neil proposed.
A year later we got married at Waltham Forest Register Office on September 20,
2008 – the seventh anniversary of that first blind date.
Emma was our bridesmaid and Kieran the best man – we’re now an inseparable
Emma’s the life and soul of any party but she’s also considerate and
sensitive, so it’s a real privilege that she calls me her best friend. And
of course, I’m forever thankful to her for finding Neil for me.”
“Fran and I met each other during our first week at Bournemouth University,
where we were both studying PR.
Everyone on our course was quite serious and we were always the pair at the
back of the class giggling.
We’ve shared everything from boyfriend break-ups to wild weekends at music
festivals. I definitely consider her my best friend.
When I met Neil, I immediately thought of Fran. He was tall (a must for her),
good-looking and really chatty.
He’s an extrovert, with a loud booming voice, and I thought he’d be the
perfect balance for Fran who’s quite quiet.
I must have been staring at him quite intently because he actually asked why I
was eyeing him up when I was with my boyfriend. He thought I was checking
Kieran and I spent that night clubbing with Neil and his friends, who he was
with on a boys’ holiday, and by the end of the evening I was determined to
set him up with Fran.
I never dreamed the date I engineered would lead them all the way up the aisle
– I just thought they would have some fun together, especially as she’d just
come out of a serious relationship.
So you can imagine how smug I felt seven years later, watching them exchange
their vows and knowing that I was responsible!
Of course I got a special mention in the speeches, and I still joke that they
should call me Cilla!”
‘She bought me a boob job’
Sarah Wright, 25, a recruitment manager from Bradford, has been friends
with Alysa Waugh, 26, a student also from Bradford, for two years.
“I’ve hated my breasts since I was 20 years old – I thought they were saggy
and felt that when I took my bra off I looked more like a 50 year old.
I would spend hours each night planning my outfit for the next day,
deliberately picking out clothes that disguised my top half. Clothes
shopping was a nightmare as I hated looking at my reflection in the mirror.
Even with a bra on, my 34DD boobs sagged towards my tummy.
I remember the nights the girls and I would get ready to go clubbing. They
were all in revealing dresses, so I felt pressurised to wear the same. I
would hold my drink while keeping my arms crossed. I felt so ugly.
Getting naked with my boyfriend Tom, 24, was also traumatic. I would try to
hold my breasts so he couldn’t see them and our sex life was strictly lights
off. He’d say: ‘I love your body babe,’ but I thought he was just trying to
avoid hurting my feelings.
In February 2010, Alysa stunned me by offering to pay for a breast enlargement
and uplift. I was speechless; I’d researched surgery but it was too
expensive. At first, I refused her offer. It seemed too big a favour. But
she insisted, saying she could afford it – she’d received a pay-out after
being involved in a serious car accident – so I agreed to have a
consultation. I’ve since offered to pay Alysa back, but she won’t hear of
Some friends recommended a local clinic called MYA. Alysa was with me when the
surgeon examined me and said he could give me an implant and lift in the
same procedure. I had my £6,000 operation on June 11 last year.
When I was finally able to remove the bandages, I was scarred, but not badly.
I was a 34EE and my bust didn’t sag at all. I cried with delight.
For the first time, I’m comfortable having sex with Tom, and he bought me some
lingerie for Christmas – which he’d never have dreamt of doing before as he
knew how I felt about my body.
Alysa is like my guardian angel – she came into my life and transformed it. I
will treasure our friendship forever.”
“I would sometimes find Sarah crying in her room about her chest. The
only way I could think of helping was to offer to help her change her body.
She wouldn’t accept the £6,000 at first, but eventually she came round to the
idea. She now wears low-cut tops, is the first on the dance floor and is so
much happier. It was worth every last penny.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: PETER SIMPSON, SYRIOL JONES, THOMAS SKOVSENDE HAIR & MAKE-UP:
CAROLINE PIASECKI FOR MORE INFORMATION ON EGG DONATION, SPEAK TO YOUR GP